Practicing yoga on a daily basis helped reduced the stress levels in people who care for Alzheimer's disease and dementia patients, new research has found.
The study, by medical scientists at the University of California-Los Angeles, found caregivers who use a certain form of chanting yoga to engage in a brief, simple daily meditation for 12 minutes daily experienced biological changes that reduced immune system-related inflammation in their bodies.
UCLA researchers, writing in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology, noted chronic inflammation contributes to a multitude of chronic health problems.
For the study, Dr. Helen Lavretsky and colleagues observed genetic changes in 45 family dementia caregivers after eight weeks of practicing a form of yoga known as Kirtan Kriya Meditation (KKM) that resulted in reduced inflammation. SPECIAL: How One Deck of Cards Has Shown to Improve Memory
Lavretsky, who also directs UCLA's Late-Life Depression, Stress and Wellness Research Program, noted caring for an Alzheimer’s patient can be a significant life stressor, particularly for a family member. Older adult caregivers typically report higher levels of stress and depression and lower levels of satisfaction, vigor and life in general. Caregivers show higher levels of the biological markers of inflammation, she said. Currently, at least five million Americans provide care for someone with dementia.
"We know that chronic stress places caregivers at a higher risk for developing depression," she said. "On average, the incidence and prevalence of clinical depression in family dementia caregivers approaches 50 percent. Caregivers are also twice as likely to report high levels of emotional distress."
The new study suggests yoga and meditation can reduce the adverse effects of caregiver stress on physical and mental health.
"The goal of the study was to determine if meditation might alter the activity of inflammatory and antiviral proteins that shape immune cell gene expression," said Lavretsky. "Our analysis showed a reduced activity of those proteins linked directly to increased inflammation.”SPECIAL: How One Deck of Cards Has Shown to Improve Memory